Flavor Trends Heat Up

Things are heating up in the food and beverage world, according to the new Heat and Spice: Culinary Trend Mapping Report by Packaged Facts and CCD Innovation, a San Francisco-based firm formerly known as the Center for Culinary Development.  That means we’re all warming up to a bit more spiciness in what we eat, or at least multicultural Generation Y is more apt to go for amped up foods.  This may be surprising after I just wrote about our nation’s flabby palates and hesitancy to explore bolder, bitter tastes. So I’m encouraged by this new report, which is primarily a guide for the food industry to leverage the desire for some heat in what we eat.  Not all of these trends have reached mainstream status, but these are the areas explored in the trend mapping report. I’m at the high end of the trend — the hotter the better.

Smoke in New Places

Expect to see a lot more smoke on restaurant menus and in what you buy at the grocery store.  It may be an outgrowth of the bacon craze, but now smokiness is everywhere – even in desserts, including ice cream, cakes and other confections.  The trend of smoke-tinged desserts was highlighted in this recent feature in the Wall Street Journal. And I love smoky salts, like the ones I recently discovered by Chef Salt.  I love the look of this smoked za’atar salt.  Za’atar is one of my favorite Lebanese spice blends, so this smoked version looks amazing to me. Maple is a perfect companion to smoke, so I really like the looks of this maple and smoked bacon creme brulee.

3532244224_239eceac62_osmoked za’atar salt courtesy of QuintanaRoo on flickr


Maple and Double Smoked Bacon Creme Brulee by kwarzy on flickr

Aleppo Pepper & Co.

Named after the largest city in Syria, Aleppo is a moderately hot pepper that is similar to the ancho chile but with a slight sweetness and fruitiness, and an oilier mouthfeel and a hint of saltiness and cumin.  The use and acceptance of Aleppo pepper and other Middle Eastern flavors is a sign of the continuing globalization of our pantry, according to the new report. I love to have Aleppo pepper in my pantry to make Muhammara, and I find my local source at the Spice House in Chicago.

4896462783_3a1c521b2c_bAleppo pepper courtesy of SporksorChopsticks on flickr

Hatch Chiles

The root of the Hatch chile trend is truly about celebrating authentic flavors and highlighting regional specialties in menu and product development. As U.S. culture becomes more diverse, more consumers are growing to recognize a broad array of chiles and developing a deeper appreciation for refined Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. Products developed around chiles also speak to the Latin audience, a growing demographic in all parts of the country, as well as Millenials, who seem to dip into new flavors with ease.

6081686263_c493e09586_bhatch chiles courtesy of rockin-photos on flickr

4337542671_a9fb83a31c_bHatch Chile Stew courtesy of  Adrienne/hungrybruno on flickr


Korean food has become one of today’s hottest cuisines. Some of the flavor that it offers comes from gochujang, the pungent, fermented sauce made from red chiles, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. cHowDivine offers some great personal background on gochujang and a recipe for making your own seasoned gochujang. This hot chili paste is following closely at the heels of popular kimchi as a trendy Korean ingredient that adds heat and flavor to global dishes as well as any American dinner table.  The paste was originally almost exclusively a homemade condiment, but now packaged gochujang is becoming more available, opening up the doors of flavorful possibilities.  How great is this idea for Korean-style humus made with gochujang.


gochujang by cHowDivine on flickr

3729432798_029e6e370f_zKorean hummus: chickpeas pureed with gochujang by atherosclerosis on flickr

Spicy Sips

We  not only demand more heat on our plates, but we desire it in our drinks, too. Spicy beverages are making a mark and opening the door for more experimentation and flavor combinations beyond just fruit, as evidenced with many spicy cocktail combinations. The addition of heat and spice to beverages is a smart and logical next step as our palates expand to crave more heat and flavor adventure. Spices and chiles bring not only unique taste experiences but also potential nutrition and health benefits.


spicy cocktails courtesy of Manhattan Cocktail Classic on flickr

Healthful Spices

Already an intrinsic part of many national or regional cuisines, notably Indian and Mexican, the idea that spices offer certain health benefits is gaining ground in the American marketplace. Over the past several years, there’s been increased attention to the attributes of spices and herbs and now consumers are listening even more closely as they realize there could be more reasons to season.


spices in Morocco courtesy of elsa11 on flickr

Buffalo Flavor

Chicken wings are the classic application, but now buffalo flavor is showing up everywhere.  I’ve certainly noticed the buffalo trend when I took a look at food trends spotted on Pinterest. With the love of this tailgate and snack food favorite growing even stronger, the American consumer is open to using buffalo sauce in myriad applications, even dessert.  Buffalor flavor is typically associated with savory snacks and comfort foods, and it goes well with a cooling partner, wheter that’s blue cheese, ranch dressing or even buttercream.

5913266820_76585d1f33_bBuffalo Chicken Sliders courtesy of Betty Crocker Recipes on flickr

3698118230_bb60ab9047_zBuffalo Chicken Pizza courtesy of the CookingPhotographer on flickr

6327404997_b8dc9cfaca_bBuffalo Chicken Cupcakes courtesy of the Food Film Festival on flickr

Are you a fan of hot and spicy food?  How are you using some of these ingredients?

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